Red velvet cake served on a cake stand

Red velvet cake

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(86 ratings)

Prep: 1 hr, 5 mins Cook: 1 hr Plus cooling

More effort

Serves 18 - 20

Bake a modern classic with this fabulous red velvet cake. This chocolatey sponge is perfect for a celebration, or halve for smaller crowd

Nutrition and extra info

  • sponges only
  • Easily halved

Nutrition: per serving (20)

  • kcal656
  • fat31g
  • saturates11g
  • carbs86g
  • sugars66g
  • fibre1g
  • protein6g
  • salt1.5g
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    For the sponges

    • 300ml vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
    • 500g plain flour
    • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
    • 4 tsp baking powder
      Baking powder

      Baking powder

      bay-king pow-dah

      Baking powder is a raising agent that is commonly used in cake-making. It is made from an alkali…

    • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
      Bicarbonate of soda

      Bicarbonate of soda

      Bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda, is an alkali which is used to raise soda breads and full-…

    • 560g light brown soft sugar
    • 1 tsp fine salt
    • 400ml buttermilk
      Buttermilk pancake mixture in bowl with whisk



      There are two types of buttermilk. Traditional buttermilk is a thin, cloudy, slightly tart but…

    • 4 tsp vanilla extract
    • 30ml red food colouring gel or about ¼ tsp food colouring paste, (use a professional food colouring paste if you can, a natural liquid colouring will not work and may turn the sponge green)
    • 4 large eggs



      The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition packed with protein and a…

    For the icing

    • 250g pack slightly salted butter, at room temperature



      Butter is a dairy product made from separating whole milk or cream into fat and…

    • 750g icing sugar
    • 350g tub full-fat soft cheese
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract


    1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment – if your cake tins are quite shallow, line the sides to a depth of at least 5cm.

    2. Put 250g flour, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 280g light brown soft sugar and 1 tsp salt in a bowl and mix well. If there are any lumps in the sugar, squeeze these through your fingers to break them up.

    3. Mix 200ml buttermilk, 150ml oil, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 100ml water and 15ml food colouring in a jug. Add 2 eggs and whisk until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until well combined. The cake mixture should be bright red, it will get a little darker as it cooks. If it’s not as vivid as you’d like, add a touch more colouring. Pour the cake mixture evenly into the two tins, and bake for 25-30 mins, or until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tins for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack, peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool.

    4. Repeat steps 1 and 2, so that you have four sponge cakes in total. These sponges can be made up to three days ahead and will stay moist if wrapped in cling film, or you can wrap well and freeze for up to two months.

    5. To make the icing, put the butter in a large bowl and sieve in half the icing sugar. Roughly mash together with a spatula, then whizz with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the soft cheese and vanilla, sieve in the remaining icing sugar, mash together again, then blend once more with the hand mixer.

    6. To assemble the cake, stick one of your sponges to a cake stand or board with a little of the soft cheese icing. Use roughly half the icing to stack the remaining cakes on top, spreading a generous amount between each layer. Pile the remaining icing on top of the assembled cake, and use a palette knife to ease it over the edges, covering the entire surface of the cake. Tidy the plate with a piece of kitchen paper. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days, but bring back to room temperature for an hour or so before eating.

      This recipe was refreshed in July 2018 based on user feedback. For the original recipe, see our beetroot cake.

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    Comments, questions and tips

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    Krupa Naik-Shah's picture
    Krupa Naik-Shah
    17th Jun, 2020
    Made this cake for my husband's birthday after several requests. I've made the red velvet cupcakes using BBCgoodfood recipe and they turned out wonderful so thought I'd use the same source for the cake. Big mistake. The cake came out a sickly brown/green colour, caved in during bake and combined with the icing was much too sweet. Do not recommend.
    lulu_grimes's picture
    21st Jun, 2020
    Hi, I'm sorry to hear that about your cake, as mentioned in the ingredients, I'm afraid vegetable based colours do cook to a green/brown rather than staying red. Lulu
    9th Jun, 2020
    This cake is absolutely delicious! I think the low star reviews are mostly from an old version of the recipe. We followed the sponge recipe to the letter. The cake mix was very wet and I was dubious but the result Was a very moist cake. I like cream cheese in my butter icing so used separate recipe for that but given the sponge was so good I might try the buttercream in this recipe next time. Can’t wait to try it again!
    Cat Driscoll
    17th May, 2020
    I loved how light this cake was when it was baked. I did make it gluten free by subbing the flour for gluten free ones and adding Xanthan gum which worked well. It was so light the cakes cracked when I was assembling. I should have levelled them out but was doing it a rush so overall quite messy looking by that's obviously down to me. The negative I have with this is that it seems really unbalance. There is far too much sugar in my opinion in both the cake and the icing. With that much sugar in thcake I would expect less in the icing or vice versa. It could have done with a bit more cocoa powder in my opinion too. Also I don't understand why some of the comments say it has too much beetroot. I panicked I'd read the recipe wrong as there is no beetroot in this recipe
    Anne's picture
    15th Apr, 2020
    I made this cake with my 11 year old daughter during lockdown. She did most of the work and it turned out lovely, really light and delicious. Make sure you look at the video and only use 2 eggs (not 4 as the recipe says). We also only used half a teaspoon of salt with the dry ingredients, plus half of the ingredients for icing as we thought it might be a bit too sickly. Really worth the effort - especially as we didn’t have an electric whisk!
    Grace Massie's picture
    Grace Massie
    22nd Mar, 2020
    I was going to make this for my Grans Mother's Day I tested the recipe and I now think the measurements are way off, bear in mind with the way things are measured it uses a whole block of butter for the icing. As well as you'll need to buy 2 tubs of butter milk 2 bags of brown sugar and 2 tubs of soft cheese to make up the measurements and this becomes quite an expensive cake and a sickly one, I heard red velvet cake was quite nice and seeing it lasts a few days I figured I'd manage to polish off the test one in a week. But now I'm left with half a bowl of unused icing and a cake that's as inedible as it is expensive.
    Daimien Brown's picture
    Daimien Brown
    15th Feb, 2020
    I tried making this for the wife as she loves cake and kept asking about it. As others have found it came out brown, this is likely down to the brown sugar and coco powder other recipes do not use, as they use caster sugar instead and some do not use coco powder. I was concerned with the amount of icing sugar in the frosting/icing and rightly so as its unbearably sickly. Bit of wasted time making it so live and learn really
    6th Feb, 2020
    I have made this as a birthday cake and for two wedding cakes and all came out beautifully with lots of compliments
    Priyal Rupalia's picture
    Priyal Rupalia
    2nd Feb, 2020
    One came out brown, the other green. Tasted moist and kind of decent, but buttercream was awful. Was completely ruined, would not recommend at all
    4th Jul, 2020
    It says in the recipe that it will turn green if you use natural liquid colouring


    19th Jun, 2020
    Can I make this with caster or golden caster instead of brown sugar?
    lulu_grimes's picture
    21st Jun, 2020
    Hello, Yes you could use caster sugar, the flavour will be a little different but not much. Lulu
    17th Feb, 2014
    Would you be able to do this as a giant cupcake or in one big tin? I love this cake
    goodfoodteam's picture
    28th Feb, 2014
    Hi there, thanks for getting in touch - great to hear you love the recipe so much! In this case, we'd recommend sticking to the original recipe as the cooking time hasn’t been tested for a giant cupcake or in one tin.
    17th Feb, 2014
    I love this cake could you do it as one in one big tin or as a giant cupcake?
    poodlequeen's picture
    16th Apr, 2020
    This recipe was ok a while back and then it was edited, so all the measurements are a bit off. First of all ignore the water. Also bake for about 50minutes NOT 25mins. Use way less sugar in the frosting, maybe find another recipe. Use 2 eggs instead of 4. Use only a pinch of salt unless you want a salty cake. Also i would moisten this cake with sugar water before assembling
    10th Sep, 2016
    Don't add the water! And perhaps give the cakes an extra 5 minutes.
    11th Mar, 2016
    use fresh beetroot and boil it yourself and then grate it. the taste is more subtle.
    11th Mar, 2016
    Add 2 teaspoons of baking powder in addition to the bicarb. Use a little less water. Add double cream to the icing.
    14th Jun, 2015
    Sarah Mac
    25th Sep, 2015
    To much beetroot why not adjust the ingredients a little, this isn't an overly expensive cake to make!? I thought these had beetroot in as the norm. recipes vary a lot. I'll have to pick one and hope for the best. Why didn't you post some recipes you do like?
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